How to Setup a Small Office Computer Network to Share Printers and Internet Access

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Sharing a printer and internet access is crucial for daily operations of any medium enterprise (SME) or small family run business in Papua New Guinea.  In today’s connected or ICT enabled business environment it is important that every small businesses should have the following  basic essential  ICT related assets.

  • Printer/Copier (All in one)
  • Internet Connectivity
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Scanner

All in One Printer (Printer/Copier/Scanner )

For a SME or family business it is important to have a medium Printer/Copier (All in one) printer. Depending on the business printing needs the size of the printer can be determined. However, it is important to consider ink toner/drum/cartridge cost. The toner cost is often not disclosed by salespeople unless the customer asks for it. The price of printer the may look cheap but cost of toner might be high. Also, ask for technical service rate of the printer vendor company for technical support services.  These costs will give a rough estimate of the overall running costs of the printer.

Another important buying tip is the discounts offered on the item. If the  store is selling at a big discount, ask them why they are selling at such discounts. The store maybe selling its stock because the product/model line is no longer supported by the manufacturer. Lure to buy cheap with the discount but accessories (ink or toner) may not be available for that particular model, down months or 1-2 years down the line when its needed, rendering it useless.

Make sure the Printer has Local Area Network (LAN) port feature. This will enable the Printer to shared among the different employees or workstations within the company. There is no need to invest in a printer that cannot be shared and utilized by allowing everyone to print to it.

Depending on the budget business printing needs, choose the printer. If All-One (Printer, Copier, Scanner) is not needed, then a standard black and white lazer printer will do. Color Lazer Printers are bit expensive, but are worth considering too.

Internet Connectivity

Internet connectivity is now much easier than it was some years back in the country. With the introduction of portable internet routers which have sim cards, SMEs can connect to internet and share the connection within their office space. Telecommunication companies  like Telikom PNG, BMobile, and Digicel have portable routers which are tied to their network.

Other ICT vendors in Papua New Guinea  like Datec, Able Computing, Digitec, TE PNG, Daltron PNG , Theodist and etc carry routers that are open sim. Meaning, can work on any network sim card.

The Router will enable internet connectivity and once the connection is established, it can then be shared with the employees in the organization.

Internet can be assessed through Tablet or Smartphone devices but for sharing among employee workstations, connection through router is recommended.

Email

Two of the most popular web-based and free providers are Gmail (by Google) and outlook (by Microsoft). Since Google and Microsoft are world reputable companies, it is good to use these two services for business emails. The trick is that when creating a business email with Gmail or Outlook, use the registered business as either Surname or Given Name. Below are links to each of these services.

Google Gmail

Microsoft outlook.

If the SME has more employees and wanted to use a company domain for example sales@sweetsago.com  instead of free  sweetsago@gmail.com . Then both outlook and Gmail do offer paid business email service. GSuite from Google and Outlook Business. Subscription based payment method, where payment is per user per month. Current price is around $6.00/user for GSuite and Outlook Business is around $12.00 per user/month.  For business domain based email services from Gmail and Outlook setup, technical assistance is needed from a tech person if required. Otherwise, the free services will be straight forward for signing up.

Both Microsoft Outlook and Google Gmail are web-based meaning that, both can only be accessed through an internet connectivity.

Phones

Phone services can be provided either through landline if the company premise has existing landline connections. Otherwise, Mobile phones will do. For business, it is recommended a smartphone or device like Tablet will do. This will help in terms of email access, internet access and other added applications like pdf reader, sms and etc.

Scanner

Scanner is optional. If the business requires it then, there two options;

  1. Buy a printer that has scanning capability (Those that comes in a All-In-One, Printer, Scanner, Copier)
  2. If a small company, than it’s good to go for a smaller size printer and buy a flat-bed scanner separately.

Sharing printer and internet connection.

Sharing printer and internet connection is much easier than most business owners may think. What is required is an investment is one more device which is a Network Switch and pre-prepared network cables which are can be easily be bought at any ICT store. Here are the steps.

 1-Buy Portable Router

A portable router can either be bought by at either Telikom, B-Mobile, Digicel. Good option is to buy a open sim one at any ICT store like Datec, Able Computing, TE PNG, Digitech and etc. Cost should be less than K1,000.00. Router  is for internet connection.

A Dlink Router Device

2: Buy a Portable Network Switch.

Switch can be bought at any ICT store. They come in different sizes or number of ports. Ports are the connection points. Think of switch as a power adopter. What the switch will do is get the internet feed from the Router and distribute to the different workstation Personal Computers (PC).

Number of PCs required will determine number of Ports required in a switch. Not only PCs but also include any shared equipment like the Printers. For example, if there is 6 workstations and 2 shared printers (Color Printer) and a All-In-One Printer), then total ports required in the switch is 8 ports ( 2 Printers + 6 workstations). So switch required will be one with 8 ports or more.

Switch price is less than K1,000.00 and 4 port switches will be much lower than that.

Switch Device with Ports

3: Cat5/6 Network Cables.

Most of the ICT stores sell pre-made Cat5/6 network cables. These cables will connect the workstation PCs to the Switch. The length of each cable can be measured by the distance between the location of the Switch and Workstation or equipment in the room. So before going to the store, decide where the Router and Switch will be placed in the office space and then determine the number of cables required and how length of each.

If the ICT store doesn’t have the required length of a cable, then ask them to make according to the lengths required. They will be happy to do that.

Network Cables

 4: Connecting them all together (LAN)

The second last step is to connect all these together. Connect the Router to Switch. The main feed port on the switch will be colored from the rest. Also the main feed out port from the router will be colored. Use a small short cable to join the router to the switch.

Then connect the rest of the cables to the other ports in the switch. The other end of each cable will join to the LAN Port of the workstations and printer devices.

Power on the Router and Switch. The ports will have blinking green/yellow lights  which indicates the active signal activities. The PCs and Printer LAN Ports will also be blinking.

5: Activating Internet Access

The router will allocate Internet Protocol (IP Address) which is actually a number a like this one  192.168.1.1

Each PCs or device like Printer will be allocated a unique IP Address or number by the router. This number uniquely identifies the device within the small network in order to communicate with each other and also connect to internet.

The IP Address of the Router will be indicated with instructions in the manual. However, if router IP address is not found or router is a second or used one, then its router can easily be found with the following instructions.

From any of the workstation PCs, do the following.

  1. From search box beside Start button, type “CMD” without the quotation marks. From the pop-up menu, right-mouse click on Command Prompt, and click Run As Administrator. Click Yes, on the User Control dialog box to continue.
  2. From the Command Prompt Screen, type “ipconfig” without the quote marks. This show the IP address for the PC itself and the router IP Address. The Router IP Address is the second IP Address just below the Submask Number. In some instances it will be labelled as Default Gateway address.
  3. Write these two addresses down as you will need them to connect the Printer too. Then close the command prompt screen.
  4. From the search box beside Start button, type “Proxy” without the quote marks. From the pop up screen, click Proxy Settings.
  5. From the Proxy Settings window, activate the Automatically Detect settings. Then close the window.

Now you can use any browser software (example, Google, Internet Explorer) and type in a website address and press Enter. The website should be displayed on the screen.

6: Connecting the Printer to Share

To connect the printer as shared network Printer, you will need the following;

  1. The Printer Manual
  2. IP Address  (IP Address of the Router)

Look at the IP address of the any of the PCs as mentioned in the last section. Note that Printers need a static or fixed IP address. The Router will automatically allocated an IP Address to each PC every time there is a restart. For the Printer, it must be allocated a static or fixed address manually (typing it in in the printer) so that it will claim it. This is important because, if the Printer picks up an IP Address automatically from the router, PCs will loose communication with the printer every time it changes it’s IP address. This means, several reconnect ions every time, print is required from PCs. To avoid that, static IP Address has to be allocated to Printer. Connection to the printer can be done only once from each PC.

The Router allocates IP Address in sequential order. The last number of the IP Address number indicates the client (device-eg PCs) For example .1 in this Example IP Address  192.168.16.1   If there are  4 pcs or workstations in the office, each PC will be allocated IP Address by the router as  as follows

PC1              192.168.16.1

PC2              192.168.16.2

PC3              192.168.16.3

PC4              192.168.16.4

This means that the Printer will be allocated an IP Address which is more than 4. Also it’s a good idea to leave at least 10 spaces in between so it will cater of additional PCS as they are added. So Printer will take a static IP address of 191.168.16.14 in this example.

Look at the IP Address of the connected PCS and then work out the IP address for the Printer. Remember, only the last number on the IP Address needs to change. The last number of the of the IP Address of the Printer will exceed the number of workstations plus expected additional PCs that would be address,

Once the Printer IP Address is determined, look up the Printer Manual (New Printer) if old one, check the Settings Touch Screen and look for the IP Settings. Then type in the IP Address you have determined for the Printer. If settings require (Router IP Address), type that in as well.

Note: To access the Touch Screen Settings in some printer models you might need to require a Admin Password. Consult the printer manual. If the manual is not available then, it’s good idea to visit the support services website on the printer manufacturer’s website.

 

Final step is to Add the Printer to each workstation PCs.

  1. In the Search box next to the Start button, type “Printers” without quote marks.
  2. Click Add Printer/Scanner and PC will automatically look for connected printers and display the Printer.
  3. Click on that the printer and follow the prompts to complete the connection.
  4. Open Word or Note pad and type sometime and print it as test print. If all goes well, then the printer is set to go.
  5. Do the same for all the other PCs so all can print to the same printer.

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